MANILA, Philippines – Fire incidents halved since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) announced on Wednesday, August 2.
In a video presentation shown during their 26th anniversary celebration, the BFP announced fire incidents went down by 51%, comparing data gathered from January to June 2016 to the same period this year.
According to data obtained by Rappler, the BFP recorded 26,969 incidents in the first semester of 2016 to 13,215 in the first semester of 2017.
According to BFP spokesperson Chief Inspector Ian Manalo, they credit the success to them focusing on prevention during the first year of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This involved aggressive inspection of buildings and spending weekends going around barangays (villages) conducting crash courses in preventing fires at home.
“Talagang barangay ugnayan sa Sabado at Linggo, sa Monday to Friday inspection lang (We really go to the villages during weekends, on weekdays just to inspect),” Manalo told Rappler.
Aside from these, the BFP started a radio program at UNTV, where they are given one hour every Wednesday from 3 to 4 pm to explain updates and answer fire prevention-related questions from callers.
“Gone are the days na ang tingin ng mga kababayan sa bumbero ay tagabuhos ng tubig lang. Ngayon puro nakikita nila na prevention lang (that they see firefighters as those who only douse flames with water. Now they always see us as promoting prevention),” he said.
However, the numbers tell another story. While fire incidents have halved, around half of all 17,992 firefighters in the Philippines still have no equipment of their own to face fires.
Despite this, they continue to go out to the field. (READ: Undermanned, under-equipped, QC’s firemen battle fire)
According to Manalo, they have been facing difficulty in the procurement process. He said many contest the bidding process eyeing for the lowest price.
On top of this, he said, the BFP has been criticized after former Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno was sacked for allegedly anomalous firetruck deals, which were later kept after he was fired.
In their defense, Manalo said providing all firemen with equipment would be a waste as they take shifts and not all equipment will be used at the same time.
“Ngayon, pagka 100 percent ginawa mo yun umuuwi yung kalahati yung kalahati san na? Kung umuwi sino ang susuot non? Nakatambak lang (If we make it 100% while half of our firefighters go home [every 12 hours] what will happen to the equipment? Who would use them? They will just be kept in storage),” he said.
They would rather spend more on prevention than on their protective equipment, he said, preferring to not use them at all.
“Di ba mas maganda na ngang hindi namin nagagamit? Kasi kakaunti lamang ang sunog? Habang lumalaki ang trabaho namin sa prevention, kumakaunti sa response,” he added.
(Isn’t it better that we’re not able to use them? Because fires are few? While we put much effort on prevention, we need less effort on the response.) – Rappler.com